Best of 2015: Top 10 Gaming Moments

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It follows that an insanely good year for games means an insanely good year for gaming moments, and that was definitely true for 2015. From incredible story beats that stuck in the heads of many, to smaller touches that blew away expectations, to personal milestones unique to each player, this year bred positive videogame talking points at a wonderfully consistent rate. Here are the ten that stuck out the most for me.

Most of these are not story-related, but there are spoilers here for certain games.

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VR BEST OF 2015 DISCLAIMER
This list represents my opinion only. I am not asserting any kind of superiority or self-importance by presenting it as I have. My opinion is not fact. If you actually agree with me 100%, that’s weird. Cool, but definitely weird. Respectful disagreement is most welcome.

SPOILERS DEFINITELY FOLLOW.
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10. What Makes You S.P.E.C.I.A.L? – Fallout 4

I didn’t get very far in Fallout 4, for a swathe of complicated reasons that can easily be summarised in the phrase “It wasn’t for me.” But that doesn’t change the fact that the game handles its weirdly lengthy install in a classy, fitting and very entertaining way. Armed with a grainy filter straight out of a 1950s movie theatre and some superbly drawn black and white animation, the game introduces you to each of the seven sections of your in-game skill tree via a series of whimsical – and brutal – vignettes that are great fun to watch. Depending on the speed of your hard drive and the platform on which you play, you may find that the length of these consecutive clips matches up almost exactly with your install time, which is a nice bonus.

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9. To Break or not to Break? – Danganronpa AE: UDG

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Delving too deep into the context around this great 2015 gaming moment would not only take far more words than I care to write in this paragraph, but it would also thoroughly spoil Danganronpa Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls, and while I may indeed be spoiling other games on this very page, doing so for this densely-plotted story would ruin the excellent first two Danganronpa games as well. And we can’t have that – too many people have yet to experience them. So I’ll just say that the finale of Ultra Despair Girls is an insanely tense set piece that connects the entire franchise thus far and leverages the repetition of a single choice to frantically brilliant effect.
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8. Barbara’s Death – Batman: Arkham Knight


I went into Batman: Arkham Knight without having played much at all of the previous games in the series, and with a single Batman comic (The Killing Joke) to my reading history. So the thematically important “death” of Barbara Gordon about halfway through the story really winded me, much as it does to our hero Bruce. It’s exactly the traumatic incident that the guilt-ridden, Joker-tormented Gotham crime fighter does not need at that point in the rather bleak story, and like a lot of Batman fans, apparently, I was really starting to take a liking to the red-headed tech wizard. Of course, not only does the death turn out to be a hallucinogenic ruse, it’s not even the biggest twist in the story, nor the most emotional moment. But man, did it hit me hard, and it was about that time that Arkham Knight turned from a game in which I was dabbling to a game I just had to finish.
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7. Opening Number – Rare Replay

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I was mainly excited for this year’s Xbox One-exclusive value bonanza Rare Replay because of its value proposition – 30 classic Rareware games for 50 bucks AUD was always going to be a winner for me personally, even if all you did was load up the games from a list. But Rare Replay goes further than that – a lot further. It packs a ton of bonuses of the functional, historical and aesthetic kind, and it sets the tone right from the beginning with a full-on song and dance number performed by a huge cast of character models from the company’s 30 years in the videogame business. It’s a catchy tune that reappears immediately as the game’s main menu music (that’s right, a game compilation with its own freaking theme tune), sticks in the memory for a while, and above all makes the polish of the collection positively blinding.
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6. War Story – Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain

Everyone who has given Metal Gear Solid V a good shake has a war story or two to tell – a moment when a perfectly executed plan went off without a hitch, or perhaps when a player discovered something they didn’t even think they could do, or, more likely, when everything just turned pear-shaped and some unexpected results came from the ensuing chaos. My personal favourite is hardly ground-breaking or uncommon, but illustrated to me just what is so special about Hideo Kojima’s last-ever Metal Gear game. While on an early mission to retrieve a hostage at the far end of a gigantic open crater, I found a densely-populated route down the right-hand edge to be frustratingly unsuccessful for me stealth-wise. So eventually I got fed up and tried sneaking around the left, getting much further before accidentally extracting a guard too close to one of his colleagues. I blew my cover and dashed towards the underground safe haven at the far end, but then realised I might compromise the hostage by doing so. Mid-run I changed direction, diving towards the crater’s dead-centre where the enemies could see me disappear. From there I waited for them to enter their searching phase, crawled away back to the right edge (where there were no longer any guards whatsoever), and basically strolled to the cave unchallenged. Now behind the hostage, I took out one lone guard, threw some dead ammo to distract another one and get him to join his mates in the middle, then crawled up to the completely unattended hostage to extract that sucker. This is the kind of stuff that happens regularly in Metal Gear Solid V.

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5. Dynamic Indignation – Until Dawn

Until Dawn is jam-packed with intense moments, both horrific and mundane, that sell the game’s central “Butterfly Effect” conceit – that is, every action you take will have some tiny-to-gigantic effect on the way the story plays out. But when I sat down to play it with four friends, I wasn’t entirely sold on the idea. I’d seen plenty of games promise that kind of thing before and fail to deliver in any but the broadest of ways. So it wasn’t a great life-or-death choice that blew my mind in Until Dawn, but a small, intimate moment. At one stage in the game the character I was controlling, Matt, is with his horrible girlfriend Emily, who enters a creepy locked building through a window and then waits for him to join her inside. Now I figured as she maneuvered her way in there I would go check the surrounding forest area for collectibles, like I would in any other game. Bad idea. A few seconds later – after calling Matt’s name a few times – a cutscene played showing Emily opening the door, looking around for an absent Matt and chastising him for leaving her alone while she was scared. Cue Matt’s “relationship bar” with Emily going down a notch or two. Yep, the developers actually rendered a full motion capture scene just for that small and unlikely possibility. The devil is in the details.
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4. Timeline Jump – Life is Strange

Life is Strange is basically a Telltale game not made by Telltale – the meaningful choices are there, the engaging story is mostly there – but it does some things a lot better than the recent years of Telltale titles have done them. One, it runs way better. Two, it actually rewards a bit of exploration and creativity. Three, it has a central time travel mechanic that blends gameplay and story in a fantastic way. Protagonist Max can undo her small and large choices, allowing the player to see alternate scenarios and use people’s own knowledge against them. And that’s all well and good, until the ending of Episode 3 (of 5) reveals just how powerful Max’s power really is. Thanks to a wobbly-looking photo, Max discovers she can travel years into the past and stop the death of her best friend Chloe’s father, which came to define her rebellious and troublesome adolescence. After a harrowing sequence, she successfully does so, entering an alternate timeline where Chloe’s dad survived – and Chloe ended up in a crippling accident as a direct result. Cue the reveal of a shockingly different Chloe, and the second-biggest story bombshell of my gaming year.
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3. First Splatfest – Splatoon

Going for a mention on all my game-related lists this year, Splatoon‘s effective free content rollout plan throughout 2015 wasn’t limited to just permanent weapon unlocks and map rotation additions – It also went for the unique appeal of appointment gaming on a scale rarely seen outside subscription-based games. A week or so into the game’s release, after players had been getting into the groove of its unique take on gunplay and loot levelling, Nintendo announced the inaugural “Splatfest” – a global event wherein each region would get its own unique “Which do you like more?” question and players would spend 24 hours battling – and ranking up – for the honour of defending their opinions. The genius of the concept came from the fact that participants received unique and powerful consumable items called Super Sea Snails, which had not been seen before in the game, just for being there, and received even more for doing well. Splatoon also undertook an irrestistible visual change for those 24 hours – day turned to night, all ink became iridescent and all the residents of hub world Inkopolis really made the event feel like a party. The atmosphere was – for lack of a better word – electric, and though regular Splatoon players might tell you the twice-monthly following Splatfests lost their lustre after a while, that initial Pop vs Rock battle was one of my favourite gaming memories of 2015.
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2. Kiss the Sky – Tales from the Borderlands

As a modern Telltale game you might expect Tales from the Borderlands to deliver plenty of memorable moments, likely revolving around an agonisingly meaningful choice or two. Such is par for the course with the narrative-focused developer. Tales does occasionally have those kinds of moments, though it tends to be its comedic beats that steal the show. And yet despite even that, for me there’s one thing the episodic game does even better, and that’s its five incredible opening title montages. With striking visuals, playful title presentation and ridiculously good music choices, these sequences stand out as the freshest thing the game does differently from previous Telltale offerings. If I had to pick one as my favourite, it would be the super slow-motion crash opening to Episode 2: Atlas Mugged, which pans around the panicked faces of our airborne protagonists and the general surrounding chaos to the smooth falsetto-laden jam of Kiss the Sky by Shawn Lee’s Ping Pong Orchestra. The whole picture is just so visually and sonically striking.
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1. The Bombshell Video – Her Story

Her Story is a game concerned with telling you a story through a series of short VHS-quality videos, and that story is designed to work no matter what order you find and watch said videos. You find the clips through keyword searches, so two different people playing the game could reach a conclusion in vastly different ways, with different points of emphasis. That being said, when my sister and I sat down to play Her Story, we watched six or seven relatively banal introductory videos of a single woman all antsy and confused about her husband’s role in a criminal case. Then my sister searched a word I never would have, and suddenly we were greeted with the same woman, cool and collected, ushering one insane line:

“We didn’t want another Carl on our hands and the Ouija board had said to hold back.”

There were about five fresh WTF details in that video, which a great many other players would only have found much later on in the story, no doubt complete with some nice context. From that point we were hooked, and we knew what we would be doing for the next four hours of our afternoon.
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Honorable Mentions
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Act 1 Ending – Broken Age
Though PC players saw it last year, the debut of Broken Age on consoles this year via PlayStation 4 and Vita meant I got to experience the highly praised, game-changing twist at the narrative midpoint of the full game in 2015. It’s the best kind of twist if you ask me, both answering the player’s nagging questions and raising intriguing new ones in one fell swoop.

A Slow Death – Final Fantasy Type-0
Aside from its constant pointing to the fact that it came with the demo code for Final Fantasy XV, the marketing for Final Fantasy Type-0 seemed obsessed with insisting that it was a “much darker FF story than normal”. That seemed like typical Square lip service to us jaded westerners until the very first scene of the game, where a soldier dies very, very slowly next to his Chocobo mount, who cops a bullet at point-blank range. Talk about setting a tone. Yikes.

Margoma Boss – The Legend of Zelda: Triforce Heroes
When two of my siblings and I sat down to start Triforce Heroes, our shared co-op Zelda history got right in the way of playing it how we were apparently supposed to. Of course we should pick the crappy clothes that make us take double damage. Of course we should go straight for the boss stage as our first level. Why not, right? We’d done it all before. Nope, turns out we hadn’t. That first boss took us down to a literal heart away from losing our third and final shared life, grinding us against the wall and upending us more times than we could count. The frantic, panicked command shouts, clutch saves and heat-of-the-moment errors left us in stitches, and very nearly in pieces.

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